Gloria De La Cruz, 52, has been through two cancer diagnoses in the past seven months and lost half her vision. Fortunately, she was granted the opportunity of proton therapy treatment and has therefore decided to stay positive and fight as hard as she can.
Last August, doctors discovered a cancerous tumor growing on Gloria’s eye and performed and enucleation of her eye. Gloria dealt with this traumatic and painful event, and in spite of the loss, she was just happy to be cancer free. “I was very fortunate to still have an eye left”, she said.
But a month and a half later, she was diagnosed with a deep-seated cancer around her liver. The only treatment option that wouldn’t put her liver and other organs at serious risk was proton therapy.
Unlike regular photon-beam radiation (using X-rays or gamma rays), which leave radiation all along the way, proton beams deposit radiation primarily at the end of their path in the body. This allows radiologists to target cancer cells deeper in the body, with less resulting radiation in the surrounding tissues. And with also fewer potential side effects.
For six-and-a-half weeks, Gloria underwent a 60 to 90 minute radiation treatment every day. Even if she couldn’t feel the radiation itself, she had to hold her arm raised the whole time, which was at times excruciating. “The best thing was when my son taught me how to meditate,” she explains. “It helped me to lay still that whole time.”
Besides, the side effects of her treatment were relatively small, considering she was taking oral chemotherapy doses at the same time. She suffered from constant nausea and fatigue but not much else.
Gloria is grateful for help from friends during the past weeks. And she marvels over how her sons pitched in to keep the household running. But she also sees how this type of treatment made a difference too, particularly given the location and aggressiveness of her cancer.
“Proton therapy is the most amazing thing,” she says. “My chances are so much better because of it.”